Now Clinton fights to block flights between Cork and the United States
Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30
Hillary Clinton has urged US President Barack Obama not to grant Norwegian Air International a permit that would enable the Ireland-based carrier to launch flights between Cork and the United States.
Ms Clinton - who has raised money in Ireland for her presidential campaign - is the latest political heavy-hitter to wade into the debate, with rival democratic runner Bernie Sanders having already said the permit should not be granted. He claimed it would set a "dangerous precedent".
A spokeswoman for Ms Clinton claimed that "too many questions have been raised about Norwegian Air International's practices and plans".
Norwegian Air International (NAI) is based in Dublin but is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle. NAI wants to use Ireland as its base in order to avail of EU open skies rights that will give it unfettered access to the US market.
But US aviation unions have been vehemently opposed to NAI's plans, claiming the airline will use cheap crew and undermine labour standards, resulting in jobs losses in both America and Europe.
Opponents insist that NAI is using Ireland to circumvent stringent employment laws in Norway. But NAI has dismissed such arguments, while the US department of transportation has already signalled that it intends to grant the permit.
Answers to objections had to be submitted by yesterday and the final permit decision must now clear a review by executive presidential agencies.
"Workers in the US airline industry deserve rules of the road that support a strong workforce with high labour standards - not attempts by airlines to flout labour standards and outsource good-paying jobs," claimed Ms Clinton's spokeswoman on labour, Nikki Budzinski.
"Hillary Clinton urges the Obama administration against moving forward with final approval of Norwegian Air International's application."
Ms Clinton, a former US secretary of state, is the frontrunner in the contest with Mr Sanders to secure the Democratic nomination for the White House. But a new poll also shows Ms Clinton is now almost in a dead heat with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump among voters.
The Clintons have leveraged their connections with Ireland to garner financial support for her current, and previous, presidential bid.
NAI's battle to secure a permit to fly to the United States has been backed by the Government and a number of state agencies such as Fáilte Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, the DAA and Shannon Airport.
The Irish Airline Pilots' Association is among a number of groups in Europe and the US that have opposed NAI's plans.
The airline hopes to fly between Cork and Boston this summer, but that timetable is now likely to be pushed back. NAI intends to launch a service between Cork and New York next year.
A spokesman for NAI said yesterday that the airline remained confident that the US department of transportation would approve its permit. The agency has already pointed out that it can see no reason why NAI's application should be impeded.
"Approval of NAI will result in more US aviation sector jobs, enable Norwegian to expand its already large pool of American crew, and deliver much needed competition and affordable fares to consumers on both sides of the Atlantic," said the spokesman.